Winchester eateries celebrate gastronomic success

A second wave of businesses celebrated at Winchester’s new Business Centre on Monday evening at an award ceremony for the best eating experiences in the Winchester District. The successful restaurants, pubs, cafés and sandwich bars who had scooped a Hampshire Hospitality Award received their certificates from the Mayor of Winchester, Cllr Chris Pines.

The Hampshire Hospitality Award was piloted last year in the districts of Winchester and Test Valley and this year extended to include Portsmouth, Gosport and North Hampshire. Supported and part-funded by the regional tourist board, Tourism South East, the scheme this year saw a total of sixty businesses receiving quality marques with 23 of these spread across the Winchester District.

All the businesses taking part underwent a ‘mystery shopper’ assessment, which took place in August. The trained assessors considered every aspect of the customer experience including cleanliness, hospitality, service and efficiency, presentation and food quality. The local produce assessment, devised by the local food group Hampshire Fare, was a separate element.

Four Winchester businesses received ‘superior quality’ awards: Hutton’s Brasserie at the Winchester Hotel, Lainston House Hotel, The Chesil Rectory and The Bush Inn at Ovington. Three businesses, Lainston House Hotel, The Chesil Rectory and Greens Restaurant and Bar in Wickham, also gained awards for their promotion and use of local produce. 

Taking a break from their own catering, the Hampshire Hospitality Award winners were last night treated to a little gastronomic delight themselves, in the form of appetizers provided by the Gandhi Indian Restaurant in Winchester and a fine tea demonstration by speciality retailer Char (based in Winchester High Street).

Winchester Business Centre in Parchment Street, which opened earlier in the month, was specially chosen as the appropriate venue for the award ceremony. Designed to support and promote the interests of local enterprise, the business centre provides advice, signposting, a low cost meeting space and other business-friendly services under one roof.

Project manager of Winchester City Council’s scheme, Alison Woods, the manager of Winchester Tourist Information Centre, said:

“Winchester has long been associated with excellent food and drink, with its thriving twice-monthly farmers’ markets and a number of award-winning pubs and restaurants. The fantastic news that Raymond Blanc has chosen Winchester for his new restaurant is no great surprise to us. We always tell our visitors, “Come to Winchester, the destination for food lovers!” and the success of our local eateries in winning nationally accredited quality marques will help to strengthen our reputation.”

Cllr George Beckett, Leader of Winchester City Council and Portfolio Holder for Economy and Tourism, added: 
“The Hampshire Hospitality Awards are all about promoting consumer confidence and choice. These awards further highlight the range, quality and imagination of our eateries. I congratulate the winners and look forward to working closely with them over the coming year.”

National tourism body, VisitBritain, is now considering adoption of the assessment scheme with a view to national roll-out during 2008.